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A Postseason Performer

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau’s regular season exploits have been more than well documented.

Those who closely follow the Sharks know he’s the third youngest to have played in 1,000 games. Marleau’s among the top-40 all-time game-winning goal leaders. He’s the Sharks all-time scoring leader. And that’s just some of his October through early April accomplishments.

But very quietly, the 31-year-old forward has placed himself on the tops of the charts in numerous playoff categories as well.

Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) blocks a shot from San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) in the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference semifinal in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, May 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Let’s start with the League-wide tables. He’s scored 36 playoff goals since 2003-04. During that time, only Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg (46) and Johan Franzen (37) have more. Among active players, his 12 game-winning goals trails Chris Drury of the Rangers (17) and Detroit’s Mike Modano (15).

On the Sharks, no one has played in more postseason games (114) than Marleau. Nobody else has scored more goals (47) and points (80) than Marleau. Only Joe Thornton (42) has more assists than Marleau (33). And no Sharks player has recorded more playoff hat tricks (three) than Marleau. In fact, he’s only one of two players (Ulf Dahlen being the other) to have scored three or more goals for the Sharks in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Two of Marleau’s hat tricks came in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In Game 2 of the quarterfinal series against St. Louis at HP Pavilion, Marleau recorded a natural hat trick by scoring the game’s first three goals – one in each period – in San Jose’s 3-1 win.

The second came in Game 1 of San Jose’s semifinal series vs. Colorado. Marleau got the game’s first goal at 10:52 of the first period on assists by Jonathan Cheechoo and Mike Rathje. The Sharks led, 3-1, in the second period when Marleau completed the job. His second goal came at 11:39. Less than two minutes later at 13:13, Marleau got the hat trick on the power play. San Jose went on to win, 5-2, and eventually advanced to its first Western Conference Final.

Marleau’s third hat trick was achieved during Game 4 of the 2006 conference quarterfinals vs. Nashville. San Jose was down 2-1 in the second period when Nashville defenseman Shea Weber went to the box for interference at 6:31. Marleau needed 30 seconds to score his first goal.

Nashville gave Marleau plenty of help on his second goal. Consecutive penalties to Predators forward David Legwand (10:08) and defenseman Brendan Witt just 46 seconds later gave San Jose a two-man advantage. Marleau’s goal at 11:30 tied the score. He completed the hat trick with a third period tally at 4:13. The Sharks won, 5-4, and eliminated the Predators three days later in Nashville.

But never mind the individual rankings. Forget about the hat tricks. And while the 12 game-winning goals are important, only one really stands out in Marleau’s mind.

San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton jumps on Patrick Marleau celebrating their 4-3 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings in an NHL hockey Western Conference second-round playoff series in Detroit, Tuesday, May 4, 2010. San Jose leads the series 3-0. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
That goal came on May 4, 2010 in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals in Detroit. “I still sign autographs of the photo of me celebrating the goal with Joe (Thornton) in the background,” Marleau said. “That keeps the memory fresh.”

The Sharks had won the first two games of the series at HP Pavilion, each by 4-3 scores. Game 3 began with the Wings scoring the first two goals in the first period. Devin Setoguchi put San Jose on the board with four seconds remaining in the first. Detroit regained their two-goal lead when Zetterberg scored at 1:42 of the second period.

But that ended the scoring for Detroit. At 6:42 of the third period, Thornton cut the deficit to one and then at 13:17, rookie Logan Couture’s third goal of the playoffs tied the game at 3-3.

The Sharks needed overtime and at 7:07 of the first extra period, Marleau ended the game with his second goal of the postseason.

Marleau doesn’t need to constantly sign post-goal photographs to remind him of how he scored. The play will probably be fresh in his mind forever. “It was a pretty simple play,” Marleau said. “It was a straight 2-on-1 and Joe made a great pass on my tape and I was able to redirect it into the net.”

Nearly a year later, Marleau’s description seems simple, but the journey to the goal was quite exciting.

Detroit was attacking on a 3-on-3 when Jason Williams fired a very hard slap shot from the right wing. The puck caromed off goaltender Evgeni Nabokov’s right shoulder all the way to the opposite wing in the neutral zone. Thornton cradled the puck on his blade near the San Jose blueline and took off along the boards. Meanwhile, Marleau was going to the net on the left wing. In between the two was Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski. He would be the lone defender as two of his teammates were coming back, but weren’t going to join the play in time. Marleau’s blade was down on the ice as he took Thornton’s pass and redirected the puck by goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Not only did San Jose win the game, they eventually eliminated the Red Wings in five games and advanced to their second Western Conference Final.

Besides getting a big win, the goal also serves as positive reinforcement. “You take it and try to use it to your advantage when playing against Detroit,” Marleau said. “I know I’ve done it in the past and can use it as a positive motivator.”

As the Sharks enter Detroit for Games 3 and 4 of this year’s semifinal series, they need to use every tool they have to maintain their momentum after building a 2-0 lead over the weekend.

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